10 Nonprofit New Year’s Resolutions…for Other People


skinny jeansHi everyone. I am in Alabama visiting in-laws for the holidays. It looks like the nonprofit funding landscape: dry, barren, everything withered, a few ravens squawking on brittle, gnarled branches.

Every year, I make a list of resolutions. Not for me, though, since I will invariably fail at all of them. So I make a list of resolutions for other people to improve themselves. It’s very therapeutic, and way more fun than making resolutions for yourself. Try it.

Nonprofit with Balls’s 2014 New Year’s Resolutions (for Other People)

People who use “literally” wrong. Seriously, you guys. It has become a pandemic scourge on society. On TV some woman said something like, “After I got my bearings, I was literally the eye of the tiger.” That makes no fricken sense! In 2014, you will learn to use literally right, or just avoid talking to me.

Staff who leave dishes unwashed. They are gross, and you fill them up with water so that the food doesn’t get stuck, which is great but then you don’t wash them in time, so the standing water becomes rancid and starts breeding mosquitoes or hipsters. In 2014, you will wash your dishes as soon as you are done using them. Unless you’re the ED, in which case, you can leave them for as long as you want.

Staff who leave food in containers in the fridge for months or years. After a while, the food start developing molds, and if left a while, the molds start evolving and becoming advanced civilizations capable of space travel. Then they go colonize other foods. Eat your food, or take it home right away.

People who use other people’s research/presentations without permission or without crediting the original source. This lackadaisical attitude in nonprofits’ use of data and research must stop, all right? We produce all sorts of awesome reports and presentations, taking hours to gather information. If you’re going to use it, ask first, or at the very least give credit to whomever you got this data from. Otherwise, my friend Director Mona will punch you in the neck.

People who have terrible paper formatting skills. In 2014, you will be more conscientious of how you format your handouts. Here are the worst offenders: PowerPoint handouts where there is one presentation slide per handout page. No one wants a 30-page package with with 9 words in 48-point font on each page! Condense your handout to 4 or even 6 slides per page, and use both sides! Also, the “dangling sentence,” knock that off. That’s when you have just one sentence on the last page of a handout. You are wasting an entire page because of one sentence! In 2014, preview before you print, and reduce your font size or margins so you don’t continue wasting paper. Or I will punch you in the neck.

Program officers and contract monitors who don’t respond to emails or phone calls. I know everyone is busy and overwhelmed with emails. But when people are emailing you three or four times, respond to them! Even if to say, “Sorry, I have no interest in your project about a nonprofit musical.” We are used to rejections, so that’s fine. But the radio silence is aggravating. In 2014, you will respond faster, even if it’s unfavorable. You are missing out on this awesome musical I’m working on.

Color-blind” people. Listen, you guys, it’s 2014. Being color-blind went out of style along with Vanilla Ice and parachute pants. Maybe it’ll come back later, who knows, which is why I still keep my parachute pants in storage just in case. Until then, saying you don’t see colors just makes people look at you funny, like you just showed up in a bunny costume to a non-costume party. The thing now is to see colors and to appreciate diversity and stuff.

People who contact our agency asking for help. Every week we get random people who call asking for help on varying sort of non-mission-related stuff. We got one guy once who called requesting help with a business he’s trying to start in Vietnam. And there was one dude who thought we were a dating service. Read the website, and stop asking us for help. We’re trying to help people!

People who automatically add my name and email to their newsletter mailing list. I get hundreds of emails each week, literally. 25% of those are from other organizations automatically adding me to their mailing list without my permission. Then I feel bad unsubscribing. So now I just don’t give out business cards any more. I don’t know what the solution is, since all of us are trying to build our base, and in some ways, I kind of envy how efficient other orgs are about adding people to their database. In 2014, maybe you should keep doing that, but leave me out of it?

Finally, people who wear skinny jeans to nonprofit meetings and functions. Please knock it off. You may think it’s stylish, but you look ridiculous, and there are very serious health problems such as constricted blood flow and pinched nerves that you might want to look into. But mainly, nonprofit events are a space for people to think about making the world better. We should not be forced to spend mental energy gazing at your skinny legs and wondering how you got into your pants. On that note, in 2014 also stop wearing scarves when it’s not cold. There is no room for style in the nonprofit world. We gave that up when we entered the field.

All right, there’s more stuff, but I’m hungry, so I am going to try to find some vegan food in Alabama. What other resolutions can you think of for other people? Write it in the comment section.

  • Mona T. Han

    Ha Ha…#4: I won’t punch, but might try to sue you if you steal my copyrighted data without permission. 😉

    • Mona, you’re not going to sue anyone. You’re too busy and too nice. That’s why I suggest the punch in the neck strategy. They’ve been warned.

  • cpetersky

    Resolutions for others:

    I will not steal implements from the church basement kitchen While the church basement kitchen is used by other nonprofits and community programs, as well as by the church, we are only daily users of the kitchen. Therefore, some items, like all the silverware, all the plates, most of the mugs, the tea kettle, loose tea bags and bags of coffee, and the rice cooker belong to the agency or the staff. Other people steal our stuff all the time. They steal silverware. Every so many months I have to spend a portion of my generous salary at the Goodwill on new forks and spoons. They steal plates – we’re down to just one dinner plate now. They stole the rice cooker insert. Fortunately, one of our clients, an elderly woman of Chinese descent was a hoarder, including of rice cookers. She had about a dozen of them. She died, and her daughter-in-law donated one of the rice cookers to us in thanks for our service.

    I will turn in my timesheeets every month All our services are performed by volunteers, so the only way our funders know that we’re doing anything is when you turn in your timesheets. When you don’t, then I have to have staff track you down, and get progressively tougher, from reminding, to pleading, to beating you severely over the head and shoulders, until you turn them in. Some folks ask me, “if all your services are done by volunteers, what do you need staff for?” Getting people like you to turn in their timesheets on time is one of the answers. For the love of God, please, turn them in. Other volunteers manage to do this – why can’t you? By the 5th of the month. Please.

    I will not use “gift” as a verb I’m looking at you, Community Religious Leader. You say all the time that God has gifted us… with this, that, and the other. This would drive me up the wall more if your congregation didn’t gift us with money every year.

    Our software company will have a useable corporate philanthropy on-line application You’re so proud of your on-line software, but your website to apply for money is nearly completely unuseable. Why do we need a user number, an account number. Why can’t I just log in with an email address? And if I want the password to be “unicornsparkles”, why should you complain? Why do I have to copy each page, paste it into Microsoft Word, write all the answers to your questions separately, and then paste each answer laboriously into each text box? Do you have to timeout – even while I am still pasting things in your blanks? Do you really have no way for me to save my work as I go along?

    Despite being on the board of directors, I will not micromanage the executive director ’nuff said.

    • Ha ha. These are all great. Thank you for gifting us with your wisdom!

  • Leslie Clay

    So funny! How about also no wearing flip flops AT ALL in the office!

    • I would totally agree, except during the summer, when my flip flops are totally awesome.

  • Cliff Meyer

    How about:
    At meetings, people who, when asked to briefly introduce themselves, provide an infomercial’s worth of information. Sometimes these people are indeed very interesting … but where does that leave those of us who went earlier and used the 15-second elevator speech, which is often too concise to be impressive?

    And: Coffee drinkers who don’t bring a commuter mug for to-go orders. No excuses, you tree-killers! Make a donation to public radio or TV, use the mug they send you, and start feeling good about yourself! (If you bring the mug to meetings, people will notice that you are an Esteemed Donor to Nonprofit Causes, and your elevator speech, no matter how mundane, will be icing on the cake.)

    • Cliff, thank you so much for bringing this up. I hate those people also! Argh, they drive me nuts! Also as annoying are when facilitators to put a stop to it.

      Great tips on the coffee mug!